Crowds are like the boogieman. They are big and you never know who they are, or where they are coming from. However unlike the boogieman, crowds are quite popular these days. You can find them in many different shapes and forms, such as crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and even crowdvoting.
Airbnb, a DIY home rental service, recently crowdsourced the world’s first video using Vine. The crowd submitted their entries, for specific storyboard slots, via Twitter using specific hashtags. The entries were judged by a professional movie director, and the best vines were stitched together to create a short film. According to Wired the project had a slow start and could have faired a lot worse it hadn’t been aided by major endorsements and partners. In the end they got by with a little help from their friends, and you can view the final result here:
Many people rely on the crowd to help them create and fund their projects, and many of them fail to gain their support. They rely on the power of the crowd. Whomever that may be. An undefined crowd is like the boogieman. It is a great, big hoax. The social media landscape is only composed of crowds for those that fail to recognize it’s true constituents. The social media landscape is primarily tribal. It consists of lots of people banding together, in tribes, around common passions, like Breaking Bad, cycling, startups or sustainability.
Well, if Airbnb wasn’t crowdsourced, what was it then? Truth be told it was tribesourced! If we examine the identities of the top contributors we find that they are members of various art and designer tribes. Some of them are also members of Vine’s brand tribe. With this in mind, Airbnb could have cut to the chase. While it may be a good thing to make an “open call”, that doesn’t cancel the possibility to directly approach tribal influencers. Actually there is no good excuse not to.
When Memoto crowdfunded their automatic life logging camera on Kickstarter, was it funded by the crowd? It was funded by tribes of lifeloggers, social media nerds, and gadget enthusiasts. While I was deconstructing the spiceologist block, another Kickstarter project, I found that it resonated with the food blogger, and home cooking tribe. It appears that Kickstarter projects are not really crowdfunded, but tribefunded.
While some academics, such as Daren Brabham, recognizes that crowdsourcing involves “online communities”, it’s fair to say that few really dig into tribes. You can find many studies about the demographics of crowdsourcing platforms and projects, but what’s the point? The best way to understand the social structure of the web is not demographics. Traditional markers like age, sex and nationality do not form the social sauce. While you can find demographic trends within tribes, their true reason for being is passion and emotion that many times transcend traditional markers.
Whatever good intentions people have with the “crowd” thing, it’s turning out to be quite misleading. Projects are not funded and created by crowds, but by tribes. These tribes do not have to be discovered in hindsight, but rather identified, mapped and recruited beforehand. The bulk of any response is by far not going to come from an unidentified crowd, but from a tribe or several of them. Rather than sending a shuttle into the great unknown, and hoping for a signal from an alien crowd, entrepreneurs can craft their appeals specifically for tribes and their influencers.
So, until people really understand that their success hinges on tribes it’s time to say goodbye. It’s time to let go of the fuzziness of crowds, and say hello to the clarity of tribes.
Say hello to tribefunding, and tribesourcing..